Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

25 January 2018

Are Starlings Afraid Of Her?

[T]he cyclists go in flocks like starlings, gathering together, skimming in & out.

Yes, I wrote that...in another life.  If only....

Actually, it was written about a quarter century before I was born, by someone whose talent I wish I could have, if only for a day.  And she was writing about cyclists in a city she was visiting.

I have visited that city, too.  I am sure, though, that there wasn't a cloud hanging over it--unless you count the Cold War, which shrouded every place--as there was during her sojourn there.

Most people in that city were living relatively peaceful lives.  But in a neighboring country, a xenophobic demagogue had seized the reins of power by, essentially, convincing people that foreigners and members of minority groups were responsible for everything that had gone wrong in their nation.  And his sense of hair styling was, shall we say, out of the ordinary.

No, I'm not talking about The Orange One. I am referring, of course, to the author of Mein Kampf.

Now, he wasn't nearly as good a writer as the person who penned the quote at the beginning of this post. (A professor of mine once told me that most translations make MK sound better-written than it actually is.)  But he would, within a few years, invade the country where the cyclists skimmed in and out on its capital's streets.

Telegram deliverers in Amsterdam, 1930


That capital is, of course, Amsterdam.  And the observant visitor was none other than Virginia Woolf, who recorded that verbal image of its cyclists in her diary.



Today is her 136th birthday.  She never looked better--her writing, I mean.

10 comments:

  1. I heard that the Dutch still chant "where are all our bicycles" at international matches against Germany...

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  2. Coline--That's interesting. I wonder why.

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    1. They nicked them all during the war...

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    2. I knew that when Germany invaded the Netherlands, Jews were forbidden from riding bicycles. The king, in an act of defiance, took the front wheel off his and left it in Tivoli Square.

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  3. Thanks for this; I've always admired Woolf.

    Interesting how things today in the US seem to parallel what took place in 1930's Europe.

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  4. Louis--Woolf was definitely one of the great ones.

    And, yes, the parallels between our country today and Europe of the 1930s are interesting. Disturbing, really.

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  5. I'm not a big fan of European starlings, an invasive species in North America. Legend has it they were introduced in New York by someone who yearned to see all the birds Shakespeare wrote about. No doubt they would have made it here sooner or later. Despite my personal dislike for them, starlings exhibit amazing flocking behavior that resembles schools of fish, sorta like packs of cyclists, as Ms. Woolf observes.

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    1. MT--MT--Eugene Scheiffelin is the one who brought all of those European bird species to North America. Most of them didn't make it; unfortunately, the starling was one of the few that did.

      Speaking of invasive species, here in NY our waterways have been clogged by Asian clams and the Northern Snakehead fish, both of which are native to Asia and are believed to have been introduced in the 1970s or '80's. It's assumed that the clam, which usually measures less than an inch, was attached to ships coming from Asia or was dumped overboard with waste water and that someone brought the fish over from China or Vietnam, where it is considered a delicacy.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Murmuration.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOGCSBh3kmM

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